opportunity, diversity, inclusion

Article provided by Jamie Mackenzie, Director of marketing at Sodexo Engage

It wasn’t long ago that the Oscars came under scrutiny for being anything but diverse.

But over the last three years we’ve seen some major improvements in film industry. In fact, well over a third (36.3 per cent) of characters in films released in 2018 came from under-represented groups – a vast improvement in such a small space of time.

While these milestones give cause for celebration, diversity is still an issue that plagues many other industries in the UK. To put this in to perspective, one in eight of the working age population is from a black or ethnic minority background, yet just six per cent of BAME individuals hold senior management roles. We also now have more women working than ever before, yet only 9.7 per cent of executive positions in the FTSE 100 companies are held by females. To top it off, its been widely reported that people with autism are highly intelligent and analytical individuals, however, only 16 per cent of autistic people in the UK have a job.

A business with a diverse range of employees is much more likely to report being more creative, innovative and productive, with companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity outperforming their competitors by an impressive 35 per cent. Embracing diversity and promoting inclusivity in the workplace isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes commercial sense.

Getting a foot in the door

Promoting inclusivity starts at the recruitment stage. Shockingly, those applying for a job from ethnic minority backgrounds have to send 60 per cent more applications to get a positive response from employers. And even when jobseekers do get an interview, 80 per cent of employers admit to making decisions based on regional accents.

Jobseekers have multiple hurdles to get over these days, but being different, shouldn’t stop someone from proving their worth. Employers should look beyond culture fit and instead hire for culture add – bringing in employees that bring something different to the company that doesn’t currently exist.

Interviewers and recruiters can be guilty of unconscious bias and this can have a knock-on impact on who a company employs. One way to avoid making snap judgments is to use blind CVs, removing personal details to allow the hiring manager to focus more on skills and experience. Employers should also consider providing unconscious bias training across the business to ensure everyone is self-aware of how their unconscious biases could get in the way of their decisions.

Keep your culture in check

Diversity isn’t a numbers game; it’s about building a workplace culture that allows everyone to thrive irrespective of their background, circumstance or identity. Creating an environment where all employees feel valued, respected and safe.

It is the duty of an employer to make sure that everyone has a voice and feels part of the team without needing to conform or change themselves in some way to feel included. This starts with moving from ‘this is how we do things around here’ to having a culture where people are encouraged to think differently and challenge the norm.

For inclusivity to really take root, the whole business needs to get on board. This is where company-wide diversity training can help. External consultants can be brought in to give employees a better understanding of the topic and show them how to be inclusive in their day-to-day interactions with each other.

Diversity and inclusivity is not a tick box exercise. It’s an ongoing process that requires thoughtful planning from recruitment to retention and should be the responsibility of every person in the organisation, regardless of position. Having a workforce that is rich in diversity culture, skill sets, abilities and experiences can be the key to having a thriving and productive workforce.

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